Contesting neoliberalism: mapping the terrain of social conflict

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This article explores the terrain of social conflict as it developed across advanced capitalist democracies throughout the ‘age of austerity’ that followed the global economic crisis. It shows how a (broadly defined) working class mobilised in different ways in different capitalist contexts, contesting the institutional forms (and the crises that emerged from them) which constitute each particular model of capitalism. Considered this way, we are able to conceptualise and explain the forms of working-class mobilisation that have emerged in opposition to contemporary neoliberalism. In doing so, we go beyond a narrow focus on workplace-focused or trade-union-led forms of working-class mobilisation, highlighting the continuing contestation of neoliberal capitalism. Drawing on a protest event analysis of 1,167 protest events in five countries (Spain, Germany, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom), and developing a Régulation Theory approach to the study of protest/social movements, we provide an overview of the most visible patterns of social contestation in each national neoliberal capitalist context, tracing links to the institutional configurations that constitute those national models of capitalism. While there exists no direct (linear) process of causality between the model of neoliberal capitalism and the forms of mobilised dissent witnessed, nevertheless we are able to clearly trace the different pressures of capital accumulation that have given rise to the protest/social movements identified in each case, thereby allowing us to gain a better insight into both each particular model of capitalism and the forms of dissent that constitute it.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCapital and Class
Early online date27 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Nov 2021


  • capitalism
  • neoliberalism
  • protest
  • resistance
  • social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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